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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A few quick points. Lost amidst much of the news over the tightening noose around the Taliban is what this is all going to mean for our long term relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Much has been made of the Saudis' balking over allowing us use of one of their key military bases. But the depth of non-cooperation and estrangement between the US and the Saudis, and their recent history of sufferance of, or passive cooperation with, bin Laden has far-reaching consequences. The Saudis are the ones with the big oil supply (with very elastic production). They are the ones who host our primary military presence in the Gulf. They are both bin Laden's enemies and his accomplices. Once the dust settles here there are going to be some serious 'whose side are you on' type questions to be asked.

Second, I noticed today on WSJ/Opinion Journal's Best of the Web that The Weekly Standard has just debuted a new web site. BoW says the Standard site was "long an online laggard." But we can leverage the strategic flexibility created by the fact that TPM is headquartered in a small apartment in DuPont Circle and faces precious little pressure from advertisers to be a little more evocative and blunt.

It blew. It was really awful -- especially when you consider the cash they pour into the print magazine.

Anyway, I'm happy to report the redesign is quite nice, a real improvement.

It may surprise you that we're plugging the Standard here at TPM. (A good bit of the content does offend my basic sensibilities. And the frequent, needess-to-mention anti-Clintonism speaks for itself.) But strictly in magazine terms it is perhaps the best political magazine currently being published. And it's now the undisputed home of the most original and intelligent voices in contemporary conservatism and the ones TPM most admires -- two groups which, admittedly, tend rather to overlap.

Speaking of which, here's an article I just found on the Saudis on the Standard site which touches provocatively on themes noted above. A few of the points seem over-stated -- particularly with regard to the puritanical streak in Islam and Wahabi anti-modernism -- but I strongly commend it to you.

I was sitting in my apartment trying to force myself to do something more productive and lucrative than write another TPM post, when I heard some chants and several helicopters buzzing overhead. I craned my neck out my fourth-floor window to see an anti-war march shambling down R Street, screaming a really wretched rendition of Whitfield and Strong's 'War'.

I don't mean to be snarky. But I can't help thinking this provides some harsh illumination on the whole IMF-WTO protest movement. These folks are here of course because there was supposed to be an IMF meeting in DC, but that got cancelled because of 9/11.

But the idea seemed to be, hell, we already built the puppets and rented the group house in Adams Morgan so we might as well protest something.

I'm told there was actually a brief but strenuous debate over whether to focus the protest on the imminent use of military force or the fact that heightened security at airports and border crossings is seriously impeding the inflow of some of the finer Jamaican weed.

P.S. For aggrieved lefties who wish to rail against this post, I've set up this special email address: aggrievedlefties@j-marshall.com.

A lot of folks in the Bush administration have risen to the occasion of late; but that only shines a harsher light on the folks whose true colors are coming through in these arduous days. At the top of the list of course is Ari Fleischer.

Clarity, after a fashion, is one of Fleischer's most refreshing qualities. Unlike most others in his field of work, in Fleischer we have all the complicating traces which make up the higher alloys burned away to reveal the pure metal of hackdom: embarrassingly little knowledge of the subjects he discusses, still less of the talent of a Karen Hughes, and none of the ethical ballast which gives the likes of Mike McCurry their dramatic tension.

Let's just touch on a few points.

Ari's part in the bogus story about the specific threat to Air Force One. (Just a note, I don't think the president had anything to apologize for, staying away from DC for a few hours, while the capital had all the feel of a war zone. But the lies of lackeys like Ari are revealing and scandalous).

Ari's crass and pitiful phone call to NBC execs trying to squelch an interview with Bill Clinton, on the rationale that national unity required keeping the former president off the airwaves.

(BTW, is anyone noticing that Jake Tapper is breaking big stories on the 9/11 aftermath about twice a week now?)

Ari's clumsy effort to exploit our calamity to blunt any criticism of the executive branch, referenced briefly in Paul Krugman's Times column.

And these are only the offense after September 11th (bogus White House vandalism story, etc.). Isn't it time this guy comes in for some serious criticism, and not just from the alternative press?

Ohhh, the perils of the blame game and, oh, the perils of not doing your homework. After a few placid days, Andrew Sullivan is back banging the bells of recrimination, laying a good bit of the blame for our recent catastrophes on the Clinton administration.

Sullivan, like other Clinton-haters, wants you to believe that we had a feckless, dilatory, and naive counter-terrorism policy under our former president and had to wait for the current crew to clean house, see the terrorist threat through the cold eye of realism, and act accordingly.

Which makes you wonder, of course, why the only big foreign policy player (beside CIA Director George Tenet) the Bush administration kept on from the Clinton team was Richard Clarke, head of counter-terrorism at NSC.

Can't have it both ways, can we?

Woe unto the world because of fatuous Karl Rove spin! for it must needs be that such spin shall come; but woe to that man by whom the spin is transmitted!

(Matthew 18:7 slightly revised)

Though I've never ignored his rough edges, I've always been a pretty big fan of Rudy Giuliani. Or at least anything but a consistent critic. Obviously his actions in recent weeks have just crystallized his strengths and what I think you have to call his claim to greatness.

That's why it really pains me to see what's happening now. Like many greats, Giuliani's virtues aren't just equalled by his shortcomings, they're difficult to distinguish one from another. If I had a magic wand I'd certainly like to see Giuliani remain as Mayor. But what's going to happen here is that he's going to try to hold on, more than likely fail, and then taint all the well-deserved praise.

Perhaps he'll even give a hint that his heroism during this crisis had a political tinge, when I think it's rather certain that it had none.

Even if he pulls it off, it won't look good. It'll looking grasping because it won't be by acclamation. It'll be political. Something hashed out in the normal runamok of politics.

The news today is that he's come up with a secret plan to extend his term three months -- which two of the three candidates have accepted. But extending a term isn't a private deal that can be worked out between contenders and the incumbent. It's a public matter, a matter of law.

He should have left well enough alone. But he couldn't.

Here is a piece of mine in today's New York Post saying some kind things about President Bush but calling to account the growing number of his conservative supporters who are using the present ceasefire on partisanship to score cheap political points.

Not linked on their site, but next to my column in the paper edition, is this column by Michelle Malkin. The article attacks Hillary Clinton for her behavior since the 9/11 calamity. I once met Michelle when we were a left-right pairing on C-Span's Washington Journal a year or so back. And she was perfectly pleasant, friendly, and engaging. But her column today is one of the most vicious and indecent pieces of writing I have ever read.

Finally, here's a column by Maggie Gallagher, also in today's Post but not linked on their site, which takes me to task for my column in those pages last week.

My first thought was that she had simply misunderstood my point -- willfully or no. More likely we simply disagree. That will be the placeholder for a more acidy response.

Okay, let's file this one away under the heading of things that don't have any clear significance to the present circumstance but are nonetheless so utterly bizarre that they are sure to kick up at least a few conspiracy theories.

You may remember from that presidential election we had a while back that President Bush once had an ill-fated oil company called Arbusto. Lotsa sweatheart deals, etc.

Well it turns out one of Bush's big investors was Osama bin Laden's elder brother Salem.

Hey ... listen, I kid you not, as my dad would say.

The story was first floated in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera and then yesterday in Britain's Daily Mail. I read the Daily Mail piece on Nexis but I can't get a link for it. It's summarized, though, in this article from the India Times.

According to the articles, the White House declined comment.

Could this be story be all smoke? Maybe, but it's been printed in several reputable papers outside the United States. There are some further details in this article from last week in the SF Weekly.

I was just about to toss up a post asking whether there was really anybody who had any objections to letting airline pilots carry guns on flights. After reading a few articles, though, it does seem clear that there is at least one pretty good possible objection.

It changes the dynamics of hijackings entirely.

One of the things the WTC and Pentagon hijackers taught us is that getting guns on to planes is prohibitively difficult or at least needlessly risky. Yet with this reform every flight would start with a gun already on-board and in a sense in play. The question would only be who managed to get their hands on it.

On balance, I think arming the pilots is a good idea, and you could take plenty of precautions to deter or dash the plans of hijackers whose whole plan was to enter the plane unarmed and somehow get control of the captain's weapon.

The one idea that seems clearly wrong, though, is the pilots' association's proposal to leave the decision to the individual pilots over whether or not to carry a weapon. I think we want to arm 'em or not arm 'em. After all, this isn't about the pilots. It's about the safety of the passengers and even more the safety of untold numbers of other innocents in targets of opportunity across the country. Let's decide whether this makes commercial aviation more or less safe, and then tell the pilots how it's gonna be.

I mean, imagine having your travel agent telling you, it's a widebody, you're in first class by the window, and Captain Scroggins is known to pack some serious heat ...

What's the phrase?   "Some men are born great. Others have greatness thrust upon them. And still others are simply ridiculous hacks from whom no good can ever come."

Or something like that.

Anyway, it brings me to the subject of Dan Quayle. I just walked home in the rain in the middle of the night and flipped on the TV to see this sorry chump rambling on about how we gotta get Saddam and he's bad because he's a terrorist and he's bad and it's not like the Gulf War but it's like back in Desert Storm and yada and we gotta be wise and yada and we looked at the big picture yada ...

It was pitiful. I can't watch him talk without thinking I'm watching a grown man struggling to tread water in a pool that's only three feet deep.

The peg for all this, I guess, is a recent meeting of something called the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. It's chaired by the Darth Vader of Republican defense policy hawks, Richard Perle, and it includes, inter alios, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. They met last week and apparently decided that we need to go after Iraq after Afghanistan.

On the face of it this board sounds a bit like a virtual retirement community for has-been Republicans like Quayle to get together for old time's sake over the situation room planning maps. But I actually remember a friend of mine (who really knows this stuff) telling me that it was a pretty big deal when Perle got appointed to chair it. So who knows.

Anyway, watching this wretched goof try to string together a few coherent thoughts on international terrorism made me shudder (reshudder?) at the thought that he ever could have been president. Whatever you think of our current president (and, as I've said, I'm giving him pretty good marks so far in this crisis) think what sort of jam we'd be in if this floundering bonehead were running the show.

It's an overcast, gloomy, ominous day in Washington ... One of the worst things these people did to us, I thought as I woke up this morning, was to make our optimism, our naivete -- our best qualities -- seem somehow shameful.

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